Cakes/ Chocolate/ Dessert/ no mixer

My Favorite Chocolate Birthday Cake

April 20, 2021

This is the ultimate chocolate birthday cake that both kids and adults love! It’s rich, moist, chocolaty and super flavorful, with the most delicious chocolate topping. It’s super quick and easy to make, and my go-to recipe for any event.

Chocolate Birthday Cake

Baking a chocolate birthday cake is one of my favorite things to do, making something sweet that will be enjoyed at that moment by the person we’re celebrating. My little daughter Danielle turned two recently, and while I’m so grateful for the time we shared together during this past year, it’s been wonderful to be able to put her in daycare recently so she can make some new friends.

As a baking blogger who has a serious sweet tooth, I couldn’t send my daughter to school without a delicious treat to share on her birthday! Since there are many kids in her class, I needed something that could easily be shared with everyone, but also enjoyed by both kids and adults. The solution: easy chocolate birthday cake.

Chocolate Birthday Cake

This chocolate birthday cake recipe is my favorite to make for celebrations. I’ve tested many in the past few years, and keep coming back to this one. It’s easy to make, yet so rich and full of a deep chocolate flavor.

When making birthday cake for a crowd, you want a recipe that is scaleable, which is why I love this chocolate cake. My previous chocolate cake recipe is very similar to this new one, but I save that more for weeknight desserts and make this new recipe for special occasions.

Chocolate Birthday Cake

How to make chocolate birthday cake

For starters, you’ll need to figure out how many people you are serving. The recipe makes enough for a 9×13- inch pan, but for a large crowd like school classrooms or events, I double it and use a 12×16-inch pan (30×40 cm).

Once you’ve got that figured out, grease your pan and preheat the oven to 350°F/180° while you prepare the cake batter. This easy chocolate birthday cake requires no mixer or special ingredients. I like to use instant coffee to bring out the chocolate flavor, but if you don’t have it hot water works just as well.

Melt the butter (you can even do this in the microwave), and slowly add the milk and mix. Set this aside to cool slightly while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, sugar and salt. Add the butter mixture, eggs and sour cream and mix until combined. Pour in the hot water/coffee and whisk until smooth.

Scrape the batter into the pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Be careful not to overabake the cake, since that will make it dry instead of soft and moist. Let the cake cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Birthday Cake

Chocolate frosting options

You can top this chocolate birthday cake with anything you want, but I like to use a simple chocolate frosting. Both of these frostings are ganache based, which gives them a shiny finish that is perfect for celebrations. Whichever recipe you choose, make sure to chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to set before serving. Keep leftovers in the fridge as well, but serve the cake at room temperature for the best texture.

Milk chocolate fudge frosting

This is my favorite frosting for a kids chocolate birthday cake. The addition of butter and powdered sugar give it a fudgy, creamy texture that is irresistible. When making the frosting just for adults, I like to add in some coffee granules for a mocha flavored frosting. It’s all up to your personal preference!

To make the frosting, place all the ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan over low-medium heat. Stir continuously until everything is melted and there aren’t any lumps. Let the frosting cool slightly for 10-15 minutes before spreading over the chocolate cake.

Chocolate Birthday Cake

Chocolate ganache frosting

This frosting is great for adults. It’s the same frosting I use in my previous chocolate cake recipe so you can see what it looks like here (so shiny!). With only two ingredients, it’s the perfect rich topping to complement the chocolate cake.

To make the ganache, place the chocolate and heavy cream in a medium heat-proof bowl and microwave in 20-30 second intervals, stirring in between until melted. You can also do this over a saucepan of simmering water. Pour the ganache evenly over the cake.

You can also make my chocolate buttercream frosting if you prefer a thick and spreadable buttercream frosting. If making for kids, I recommend using milk chocolate and omitting the cocoa powder for a more subtle flavor.

Chocolate Birthday Cake

Other birthday cake recipes:

4.84 from 6 votes
Chocolate Birthday Cake
Chocolate Birthday Cake
YIELD: 1 9×13 inch cake

  • 1 3/4 sticks (200g) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) milk
  • 1 3/4 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2/3 cup (65g) cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups (300g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) sour cream
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) hot water or coffee (hot water mixed with 1-2 teaspoons instant coffee powder/granules)
Frosting Option 1: Milk Chocolate Fudge Frosting (great for kids)
  • 7 oz. (200g) milk chocolate
  • 7 tablespoons (100g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 3/4 cup (90g) powdered sugar, optional (gives a more fudgy texture)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 ml) heavy cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder/granules , optional, for a mocha flavor
Frosting Option 2: Chocolate Ganache (great for adults)
  • 7 oz. (200g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) heavy cream
To make the cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°. Grease a 9×13-inch pan. Set aside.
  2. Melt the butter, add milk and mix, then set aside to cool slightly.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, sugar and salt. Add the butter mixture, eggs and sour cream to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add the hot water/coffee and whisk until smooth.

  4. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake cake for 30-35 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Avoid overbaking which will make the cake dry. Allow cake to cool completely on a wire rack.
To make frosting option 1:
  1. In a medium-size saucepan place all the ingredients. Warm it over low-medium heat, stir at all times, until the chocolate/butter is melted and there are no lumps. Let it cool slightly in the saucepan for 10-15 minutes.
To make frosting option 2:
  1. Place chocolate and heavy cream in a medium heat-proof bowl, and microwave in 20-30 second-intervals, stirring in between each interval, until melted. Alternatively, set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until melted.
To frost the cake:
  1. Cover the cake evenly with the frosting. Add sprinkles, if desired. Refrigerate for 1 hour until set. Keep in the fridge.
  2. Cake can be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Serve at room temperature for the best texture.

Recipe Notes

Chocolate cake recipe is adapted from Call Me Cupcake. Milk chocolate fudge frosting recipe adapted from Passion for Baking.

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    April 28, 2021 at 5:59 pm

    Do you use dutch process cocoa or regular cocoa here? Thank you.

    • Reply
      May 2, 2021 at 1:49 pm

      Hi Mel, you can use either one but I prefer Dutch process cocoa.

  • Reply
    May 14, 2021 at 3:31 am

    Hello Shiran.
    Just tried this cake and I love it! I have tried many of your recipes with great success. My family loves semolina cakes so much- do you like them too? If yes, it would be so great if you could devise a recipe! Thank you so much and keep safe with your family.

    • Reply
      May 25, 2021 at 2:22 pm

      Hi Kaushal, I’m really glad you enjoyed the recipes! Thank you for the compliment 🙂 I haven’t made semolina cakes in quite some time but I will keep this in mind for the future.

  • Reply
    May 15, 2021 at 5:00 am

    Hello Shiran,
    That’s a lovely cake indeed. Was wondering if sour cream is necessary or could we replace it with something else like thick strained curd ? Would appreciate your reply. Thanks so much.

    • Reply
      May 25, 2021 at 2:24 pm

      Hi Shwetal, thank you so much! I prefer this cake made with sour cream but you can substitute buttermilk if you’d like.

  • Reply
    May 27, 2021 at 1:06 pm

    Hi Shiran! This one looks amazing. But my kiddo doesn’like the strong falvor of cocoa powder, can I use melted chocolate instead?

    • Reply
      June 11, 2021 at 4:44 am

      Hi Andrea, unfortunately, cocoa powder and melted chocolate aren’t interchangeable in cake recipes. But you can use a bit less cocoa powder if you’d like, although I think this is a great chocolate cake for kids because it doesn’t have an overpowering cocoa powder taste – it just tastes like chocolate 🙂

  • Reply
    June 12, 2021 at 10:48 pm

    Can this recipe be used for cupcakes?

    • Reply
      August 12, 2021 at 4:52 am

      Yes 🙂

  • Reply
    June 13, 2021 at 9:52 am


  • Reply
    June 28, 2021 at 12:59 am

    HI! Do you think this recipe would work well baked into cupcakes?

    • Reply
      Talia @ Pretty. Simple. Sweet.
      July 7, 2021 at 2:07 pm

      Hi Sara, this recipe would work for cupcakes, as well. However, you can also check out my Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes for my tried and true chocolate cupcake recipe 🙂

  • Reply
    September 28, 2021 at 6:34 am

    Very informative

  • Reply
    Amy Kaiser
    October 24, 2021 at 9:55 pm

    Used 1:1 Gluten Free flour and it was fantastic! You’d never even know it was GF. Fabulous recipe. We used the option 1 frosting, it was lively to not have to bring out the kitchen-aid or hand mixer for this. Delicious!

  • Reply
    November 16, 2021 at 12:59 am

    Thank you so much for this fantastic recipe . I was looking for a chocolate cake recipe for my 5 year old and this turned out great. I substituted sour cream with vanilla yoghurt and it was good. Loved the kids frosting option. I enjoyed it myself 🙂 will be making this for sure next week on her special day

  • Reply
    Michele Bandler
    December 30, 2021 at 9:29 pm

    I hadn’t made that many chocolate cakes from scratch, but I was determined to do so for my partner’s milestone birthday gathering. I made this cake exactly according to the recipe and it turned out absolutely delicious!! Chocolatey , very moist, and just sweet enough. I chose to ice it with a simple vanilla buttercream frosting and put sprinkles on it as in this recipe. The whole family was together for the weekend and it was nearly all eaten up. Thank you for my go-to recipe for chocolate cake!

  • Reply
    January 12, 2022 at 9:20 am

    Can I make this in regular cake pans? How would I adjust the cooking time?

    • Reply
      Talia @ Pretty. Simple. Sweet.
      January 17, 2022 at 9:50 am

      Hey Heather, here’s a great article explaining how to convert pan sizes 🙂

  • Reply
    April 21, 2022 at 4:54 pm

    Hi Shiran, can this recipe be made ahead of time and frozen? I’d then defrost it for icing. Thanks! Kate

    • Reply
      Talia @ Pretty. Simple. Sweet.
      April 24, 2022 at 6:55 am

      Hi Kate, yes this cake freezes great. Just be sure to double wrap all layers with plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn.

  • Reply
    July 9, 2022 at 1:42 pm

    What brand are the sprinkles used here?

  • Leave a Reply

    Recipe Rating